So now we're talking. Nine AGVs. I can do something with these. In my humble view, AGVs are the most ready-for-the-world solution in this series so far.
This year, I saw many of them in action in factories. Some are a little bit annoying. In one factory I visited, the AGV’s job was to bring trollies for huge sub-assemblies back to the start of the line, like returning shopping carts to the cart coral. This was a nuisance task that kept workers from reaching their productivity targets. They actually had few AGVs doing similar tasks to this that clearly no one wanted to do. Some were older generation and required a line on the floor to get them to where they were going. It was clear that in parts there was a small battle going on trying to keep paint on the floor despite the traffic, the oil, and the turning forklifts.
The annoying part was that the AGVs played essentially the same songs at as a neighborhood ice cream truck to alert the humans so they wouldn’t walk into their paths. Much like when I worked at Chuck E. Cheese's when I was 16, and the 20-foot animatronic lion in the silver jumpsuit belted out just 12 Elvis songs over and over again. I imagine the workers were sick to death of the siren call of drumsticks and bomb pops. The AGVs definitely had rudimentary crash detection abilities which we saw a demo of. Still, given their size and weight, I wouldn’t have wanted to test it out myself.
The most advanced AGV that I saw this year was still in the lab and really points to the ability for these giant sleds and skateboards to do some really interesting work. This Kuka AGV had some crazy wheels that allowed it to move sideways as well. Think furniture casters if they were designed by a super advanced alien race. The AGV didn’t need any lines on the floor or any special programming. It mapped the room itself like a giant Roomba and was millimeter-accurate with its movements around the warehouse. The grad students had mounted a robotic arm on the AGV so with its street smarts it could now go to a precise location and turn something or pick something up with precision. Again, this little guy would probably be assigned nuisance tasks as well, but some pretty advanced ones like “go open that valve,” “go reset that servo,” or “or bring me a sample of the last batch.”
The next step here is obviously to make AGVs more and more intelligent and pair them with more robotics. They then need to communicate with humans through IoT Gateways. At Parsable, we are ready to send them commands and receive updates through our Connected Worker platform. Our users will certainly make a great team with the next generation of AGVs in their final review by the world’s top industrial engineering grad students.
Boss, I am going to keep these AGVs. Thanks. They don’t have the alien wheels or the smart arms, but they look upgradeable, and we can put them to work doing some mind-numbing tasks that take us off our main game now.
I am still curious to see what you have in store for me on day 10.